We’re so excited that today, 12 April, libraries across England and Wales are re-opening their doors to customers, with hopefully not long to go for Scotland and Northern Ireland. At The Reading Agency, we love libraries. They’re an essential part of our communities and we want to celebrate just how much these spaces mean.
There are over 3,600 public libraries in the UK, with more than 7 million active borrowers. In 2020, 214 million visits to public libraries took place across the year, with an additional 131 million online visits. With 72% of people in England agreeing that libraries are an essential or very important service to the community, it is safe to say that libraries will have been much missed during the pandemic. Over the past year, we’ve seen amazing initiatives from libraries, in what is a testament not only to public spirit and our appreciation of libraries, but also to their resilience.
According to The Arts Council:
• Many library services are using their 3D printers to provide PPE. Gateshead Libraries has delivered over 2,000 visors to its local hospital, care homes and adult social services; while The Word, in South Tyneside, is working with mixed media artist Laura Jones to create visors for frontline care workers
• Middlesbrough’s “#HelpBoro hub”https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/leisure-events-libraries-and-hubs/community-hubs-and-libraries was initially established at the Central Library, with staff answering calls, dropping off shopping and prescriptions, and packing food parcels. They’ve also produced a twice-daily broadcast of storytelling, including a bedtime story with Tammy, one of their Community Hub librarians and her dog Monty
• Cambridgeshire Libraries is digitally streaming performances as part of its The Library Presents programme
• Hampshire Libraries is encouraging people to get into crafting, creating videos and linking to online crafting magazines
• Inspire in Nottingham has a large online offer which includes online learning for those with disabilities
• Staff at City of London, Hackney and Lambeth Libraries are keeping in contact with their older, lonely and vulnerable users to check how they are.
Libraries are not just spaces to provide access to books. Increasingly, they are hubs for the local community to meet (albeit virtually at the moment) and feel connected. Their work has great benefits for maintaining both mental and physical wellbeing and community cohesion, which we need now more than ever.
If you want to get involved with a library near you from the safety of your own home, the amazing Libraries From Home initiative brought to you by Libraries Connected will provide you with all sorts of great digital resources. And if you want to help out your local library but are not sure how, take a look at this article from Penguin for 5 easy ways to support your local library.
What are you waiting for? Sign up for your local library for free now and experience all of the incredible things it has to offer.